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Friday, April 25, 2008

What's in it for the coroners?

Earlier today, I learned that, on Monday, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, currently reviewing the use of tasers in Canada, will hear from two Canadian coroners: namely, Graeme Dowling (Chief Medical Examiner for Alberta) and Andrew McCallum (Regional Supervising Coroner for Eastern Ontario).

See the Notice of Meeting

I do not know Andrew McCallum's position on tasers but I *do* know that he works for the same Ontario government Ministry that employed Dr. James (Jim) Cairns, - the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The same Ministry that allowed tasers into Ontario, the same Ministry that found tasers had nothing to do with the deaths of Peter Lamonday, Samuel Truscott and James Foldi and which has yet to hold an inquest into the death of Jerry Knight who died FOUR years ago, the same Ministry that, according to the Globe and Mail, allowed its deputy chief coroner, Jim Cairns, to accept payment from Taser International for lecturing at their conferences. And on and on it goes. OK, I think we can guess what Andrew McCallum's stance will be.

Here's what the taser manufacturer had to say about Graeme Dowling on its website:

Medical Examiner Says TASER Devices Not a Death Sentence

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), a market leader in advanced electronic control devices released the following News Alert:

According to news reports from Alberta's Edmonton Sun in Canada, a local medical examiner has stated that misconceptions and misinformation about police TASER devices are causing misguided speculation in excited delirium deaths. Excited delirium is a condition that causes victims to display extremely aggressive behavior and "superhuman" strength and often requires several people to control the affected individual. Most often excited delirium victims stop breathing and do not respond to resuscitation attempts.

Dr. Graeme Dowling of Edmonton's medical examiner's office stated that there are actually "no definitive cases where TASERs have actually killed anybody." Dowling also noted that because the electricity from a TASER device flows across the skin surface, as opposed to through internal organs, there is no effect on the heart. "The frustrating thing for us is these deaths occur and the immediate speculation is TASER," says Dowling.

To date, TASER systems have not been named in any in-custody death situation in Edmonton.


Later today, a fellow blogger left a comment on "340 dead after taser use." I didn't want it to be missed, so here it is in its entirety:

Okay, let's lay it out:

Taser has cultivated close relationships with many leading coroners and medical examiners. They sponsor almost-'captive' organizations that sponsor nice seminars in pleasant locations. They pay for coroners to attend. They're deeply involved in the coroner and ME business. Skeptics might find this cozy Taser+Coroners relationship very suspicious.

Would you eat ice cream from an ice cream company that was this friendly with coroners and medical examiners? I certainly wouldn't.

If you ask many coroners, they'd tell you flat out that tasers are perfectly safe (because Taser told them so, and Taser wouldn't lie, would they?). Some skeptics might use the word brainwashed. Taser has had quite the head start in this.

Many of these coroners have been told that the various tasers emit only about 2 mA ("average"), but I'll bet most don't realize that the M26 emits 162 mA RMS and the X26 emits 151 mA RMS. The industry standard method to measure electrical waveforms is RMS (like your household power is 120 volts RMS).

I'll put it out again because it's important:

Taser M26 is 162 mA RMS
Taser X26 is 151 mA RMS

These RMS values, which appeared on earlier revisions of their specification sheets, have been curiously expunged from the later revisions.


Taser sues coroners that have found that the taser was a contributing factor. They're in court this week in fact.

There are other coroners that list everything (EVERYTHING!) except (!) the taser. Amazing!!! Why? Well, see above. And see below too.

The taser leaves zero internal footprints. There is no physical evidence. This 'proof issue' is a huge problem for opponents of Taser. It's as if Taser has invented a magic electric rifle that can take down victims (and possibly stop their heart) without leaving a sign.

But to claim that the taser is perfectly safe in the face of such numbers is an insane position.

If Taser was honest, they would provide a numerical risk value. The number will not be zero. I've never seen such a number. Even Boeing has to submit a thick report showing their estimated risk for the wings falling off (etc.).

Look for my post "Looking for 'proof' in all the wrong places" on my blog www.Excited-Delirium.com for further discussion on this issue.

Perhaps the standard for proof should be that someone died and there were all those little Taser serial number tags found scattered around at the scene. At least it is strong evidence that the taser is a possible contributing factor to the death.

It's naive to exclude the taser as a possible contributing factor because Taser told them so.

And when you see the ethical missteps associated with Taser, you wouldn't trust them as far as you could throw them.

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